Couple pursue hijacked supercars in underworld
A Cape Town businessman's desire to give his wife an exotic car turned into a drawn-out nightmare which resulted in him losing a Ferrari and a McLaren.
Eight years later, an elaborate scheme involving feared underworld figures is still causing a headache for the couple.
Francisco Beserra bought a Ferrari 599 for his wife, Renata Lopes, in 2011. The following year, Lopes bought a McLaren and decided to sell the Ferrari - sparking a bruising encounter with organised crime that ended up in a high court case and a legal bill of R1.5m.
Court papers reveal that Bessera's business partner, Paulo Camara, "indicated that he had a friend … who dealt in exotic cars and who had a potential purchaser of the Ferrari".
The friend turned out to be suspected underworld boss Nafiz Modack, who is facing extortion and intimidation charges in the Cape Town regional court, and the saga that ensued even included jailed Czech mafioso Radovan Krejcir.
Bessera, originally from Brazil, gave Camara the keys to the Ferrari, which was parked in the basement of the Cape Royale, in Green Point, where the couple owned an apartment.
Without the couple's knowledge, the car was registered in the name of AMG Auto and Lopes's signature was forged on the vehicle transfer documents.
Modack then informed Bessera he had a client interested in buying the Ferrari and the McLaren for a combined R4.5m. But the cheques bounced and the McLaren was "stolen from Lopes and Bessera by false pretences, paid for with stolen money", the couple said in an affidavit.
They sued Modack and a Durban car dealership, McCarthy, which claimed to have bought the car from AMG Auto, and the vehicle was returned to them in December 2017.
Eventually, the McLaren was also returned, having "been recovered by members of SAPS vehicle recovery unit on the Swaziland border".
Acting judge Allie Blommaert's judgment said: "The McLaren, registered in the name of someone already deceased, had been clad in silver [its original colour is a metallic black] and was sporting Lamborghini registration plates and registration disc."
The 27-page judgment details the lengths Beserra went to recover the vehicle, including laying a criminal charge against Modack which stalled when a prosecutor declined to pursue the case. Bessera traced the Ferrari to a dealership in Johannesburg, but when he attempted to collect it, "the son and other associates of Mr Radovan Krejcir arrived … claiming that Mr Krejcir had bought the Ferrari from Modack".
This week the couple's lawyer, Lauren Fine, said McCarthy had not yet paid the couple's legal costs for an urgent application they launched in the high court in Durban.
Fine said the dealership's lawyers were contesting the bill. "The car was ultimately returned to its rightful owners," she said. However, it had been damaged and its mileage was much higher.
"They are happy that they were ultimately successful in securing the return of their car. However, they felt that process took an inordinate amount of time, as a result of the litigation being extremely acrimonious."